Whether you’re trying to conceive or trying to prevent pregnancy, it’s important to understand what’s going on “down there” when you see spotting or something heavier than spotting. When an egg is fertilized by a sperm cell, it embeds itself into a woman’s uterine wall. Upon attachment, it is normal to shed a small amount of the uterine lining, which is expelled outward through the woman’s vagina.
Most women aren’t aware that this clue is the first positive, visual sign of pregnancy. So here are five things to check to help you determine whether you’ve gotten your period or if the blood you’re seeing is from implantation bleeding.
1. Not sure if it is implantation bleeding or period? Check the color.
Women are generally aware that normal period blood is a deep red color. However, when the blood is lighter in color than normal, that’s the first distinguishing sign that you could be pregnant. Implantation bleeding comes in the form of a discharge similar to period blood (because, after all, it is the same type of shedding of the uterine wall as a regular period is), but will look very different in pigment.
2. Check the timing.
Though not fool-proof, the average woman has a twenty-eight day menstrual cycle, with ovulation occurring somewhere around the fourteenth day. She can generally expect to have her period about two weeks following ovulation. However, if pregnancy has occurred, implantation bleeding can be seen one week before regular menstruation.
3. Check the symptoms.
Typical symptoms of menstruation include: headache or backache, upset stomach, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, uterine cramping, and mood swings. If bleeding is accompanied by these normal symptoms, it’s possible that the woman is experiencing a normal period.
If the bleeding is accompanied by the following symptoms, typically associated with pregnancy, it could be implantation bleeding: nausea, frequent urination, vomiting, bloating, raised sensitivity to smells, and breast tenderness. Note: Mild uterine cramping is normal for both regular menstruation and implantation bleeding, but if the bleeding is occurring together with intense abdominal and/or vaginal pain, seek medical attention. Intense pain could be a sign of early miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
4. Check the amount.
Menstruation length can widely vary, but a woman can expect typical bleeding to last from 3-7 days in length. As a woman ages, menstruation is likely to shorten in length and lessen in intensity.
Implantation bleeding will last at a minimum of a few minutes and at a maximum of only 3 days. If bleeding or spotting lasts longer than 3 days, it is likely not implantation bleeding, though it should not be ignored if it comes at a time when a woman would not expect her regular period. (Any unexplained bleeding could signal something serious and should be evaluated with a doctor.) Women should expect to lose between 4 and 12 teaspoons of blood per menstrual cycle. Implantation bleeding will be significantly less blood lost.
5. Check your intuition.
A belief in the power of a woman’s intuition has led many to believe that they can perceive a pregnancy long before showing any symptoms. If, after examining color, timing, symptoms, and amount, a woman still is unsure whether the blood is linked to implantation bleeding or period (or something else entirely), she should check her own intuition. By listening to one’s body, women can often detect a feeling that something is “off,” before there is any solid evidence to support it. It is very important, however, to keep an open dialogue with your doctor about any “feelings” and symptoms you might have.
As always, check with your doctor if there is any cause for concern. It can be tricky to tell the difference between implantation bleeding or period, but by paying careful attention to color, timing, symptoms, amount, and intuition and working together with your doctor, you can distinguish the difference and act appropriately for your health.
Featured photo credit: Ann #1/Audrey via flickr.com